James Willstrop: World’s best players gather in Hull for season finale

Alison Waters.

Alison Waters.

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The season finale is the British Open, the most prestigious of all the titles in squash, and qualifying for it began on Saturday at the University of Hull.

Main draw matches begin on Monday and the best players in the world are now gathered on the banks of the Humber at the behest of Dr Assem Allem, Hull City owner and squash fan who has now been responsible for the staging of this event for four consecutive years.

With some inevitability at this late stage of the season, there have been a few high profile withdrawals. Many squash fans will be very disappointed to see that Ramy Ashour and Amr Shabana have not made it.

Ashour has had a reaction from his unbelievable comeback win in Egypt last month, and Shabana is suffering with a back problem. My own and many others’ favourite players, it will be a shame not to see their mind-bending racket work on display in Hull this week.

World number one Mohamed El Shorbagy heads a draw which remains strong despite these absences.

The women’s event has until now retained its stars. Nicol David heads the draw as usual, and Alison Waters is England’s pack leader, but there is plenty of home interest behind her in the form of Sarah Jane Perry and Laura Massaro who has just taken two months off to fire herself up for this.

Joelle King makes a welcome return after practically a year out and young Egyptians Nour El Tayeb and Nour El Sherbini will be worth watching. On a wave of form is world number two Raneem El Weleily, an exquisite squash player.

Also in Hull will be a smattering of legends still playing so well, the Grinham sisters Rachael and Natalie included.

Information can be found allambritishopensquash.com.

You can watch the action live all week online at psasquashtv.com.